Trust, relationships, and civic virtue

Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard states, “Glass, China, and Reputation, are easily crack’d, and never well mended.” Yes, we concur, but why is that so? What constitutes a good reputation? Ever had an enduring, fulfilling relationship with one with a bad reputation?

When is the last time you heard a public official unequivocally state, “It was my fault, I take full responsibility”? When’s the last time you heard anyone say it? When’s the last time you said it?

Think about how trusting you are with others, with institutions, with businesses and corporations, with government officials, with the media compared to 20 years ago. Ten years? Two years? Mark it on a scale and connect the dots. A visual line-graph.

The foundation of our democracy lies within our confidence in the integrity of the electoral process by voters, candidates, and activists for and against ballot initiatives. Their confidence arises from the belief all votes are received, opened in a fashion that the voter’s choices are not revealed, and recorded.

To that end, a secrecy sleeve was once required to be included with Colorado’s mail-in ballot, but a law change left the discretion to county clerks. To her credit, our long-time clerk Pam Phipps made that choice. However, due to a clerical error, many voters did not get a sleeve, causing consternation for some. When I asked Pam about it, she took full responsibility and explained how it happened and her response to fix it.

It was a tough day for Pam especially given how this hiccup comes towards the end of her stellar career, and I felt for her. Over the years, Pam, a Republican clerk, and I, long-time columnist, radio host, and, when a Democrat, party chair, developed a trusting relationship. Because of it, we had a congenial conversation.

Positive relationships just don’t happen; they take effort and ultimately rely on a critical element: Trust.

Lessons drawn and teachable moments from this cycle: Trust, relationships, and virtue about which Poor Richard said, “What’s more valuable than Gold? Diamonds. Than Diamonds? Virtue.”

Trust. Decimated at the national level. It’s palpable. A catastrophic Trump Effect among others. Rather than work to mend it, he exacerbates and exploits it with rhetorical pipe bombs. But not here.

A positive outcome of the 2018 Clear Creek elections has been the tone, not only on the candidates’ parts, but also on yours, Courant readers. The letters to the editor about the candidates were nearly 100 percent positive. I recall only one with negative comments about a candidate. C’est la vie. Still, compare our track record to the nasty, negative ads airing incessantly on local TV.

In the Midwest, they say, when affirming another’s good reputation, “He/she is good people.”

We are fortunate with six good-people candidates for clerk and commissioner: Brenda Corbett, Elaine Lewers, Bill Macy, Bill Lee, Mike Hillman, George Marlin. Each Teddy Roosevelt’s man/woman-in-the-arena who strove valiantly, might have erred, and potentially will come up short. They will not be with “those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Only one will be commissioner and one will be clerk, but it helps one sleep at night knowing that if his/her preferred candidate loses, the winner will be one he/she can trust to do the serious business at hand.

A shout-out to every letter writer. That takes gumption as well, and time. Thank you! And, by the way, don’t stop writing them when the election is concluded. You’re an essential aspect of that First Amendment freedom-of-the-press clause that is under horrific attack. Show some love by writing.

A special thanks to the Clear Creek students and graduates for their letters. Concise, well-organized, reasoned pieces with effective word choice and sentence structure. Your teachers taught you well. A+’s around!

Citizenship is not a state or condition, but a pass/fail process. If you fail to vote, you fail your bi-annual citizenship test.

Voting is a virtuous act. It goes far towards moving a populace past cynicism and distrust and reestablishing what the Greeks called the polity that can only be built upon and sustained with trusting relationships.

Thanks, Pam, for your years of service to the Clear Creek community. You are leaving a legacy.

You Might Also Like